Arnold Palmer once said, “Golf is a game of inches. The most important are the six inches between your ears.”

Golf is a game of 18 holes, but the course is divided into a front nine and a back nine. This separation allows the mind a chance for a quick assessment of progress: noticing the current score, investigating what changes need to be made, not giving up hope, and then the chance to execute during the remainder of the game.

These mental preparations are easy to acknowledge when it comes to a game such as golf. But why is it so difficult for individuals to put this into play within a marriage, especially a seasoned marriage?

In a seasoned marriage, the couple has been married so long they often know what the other will do before it’s done. The desire to “keep up with the Joneses” decreases, and a certain amount of peace occurs as they have settled into the marriage roles.

This occurs after years of experiencing life’s milestones together. Often their children have left the nest, grandchildren rule their home during holidays, and retirement is either around the corner or already a day-to-day experience.

With this much life already under their belts, the chances are high that painful situations have occurred such as the loss of a job, financial strains, physical illness, or the death of parents and family members.

Additionally, being married to an imperfect human leaves people vulnerable to all sorts of pain. Forgiveness for past mistakes becomes something that seems impossible, and bitterness can creep in unexpectedly.

Attempts are made to push things under the rug, but over the years it becomes apparent that time alone does not really heal all wounds.

How to prepare for the back NINE of marriage?

N- Notice your marriage score. On a scale of 1-10, where do you rate your marriage?

I – Investigate yourself for areas of improvement. You are capable of changing only yourself. Do you allow the past to haunt your present? Do you love your spouse the way he or she needs to be loved?

N- Never say never. Despite where you are in life, there is room for healing. Just like golf, sometime a small alteration can make all the difference.

E- Excute. This is where people improve or fail in the relationship. Execution is a must. If it is not possible on your own, seeking help from a professional couples’ therapist might assist in obtaining the strong finish that you desire.

Philip Searcy MSW, LISW-CP is a therapist for adults, couples, adolescents and families with Psychological and Counseling Associates of the Lowcountry, LLC in Bluffton.